Rapid spread of wildfires worries New Mexico officials

Due to the continuing danger, county officials were unable to provide a full account of the number of destroyed or damaged structures. But San Miguel County Executive Joy Ansley said before the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon fire spread Friday, it had destroyed 200 structures.

Eight other fires were also burning in the state on Saturday. New Mexico is one of several states that have faced wildfires this spring, fueled by high winds and drier conditions likely to be linked to climate change.

In Arizona, firefighters were extinguishing the Tunnel Fire, which had burned 19,075 acres in the central part of the state near Flagstaff, according to InciWeb, a government website that tracks wildfires. This fire was 92% contained on Saturday evening.

About 100 miles southwest of that fire, the Crooks Fire near Mount Union had burned more than 9,000 acres and was 38% contained, according to InciWeb. And in Nebraska, firefighters had contained 97% of the Highway 702 fire, which had burned about 44,000 acres, according to the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency.

Roger Montoya, a New Mexico state representative whose district includes three counties currently affected by fires, spent time last week with a team delivering food and other supplies to residents who weren’t not gone yet. Some are without electricity, he said.

“There is a reluctance among individuals to leave their homes,” he said.

Samuel Coca, general manager of a bar at the Castañeda Hotel in Las Vegas, NM, said he had three vehicles full of personal effects in case he and his family needed to leave.

As the blaze intensified on Friday, alongside the number of people leaving their homes, his bar began offering free buffet dinners to firefighters and evacuees. Many people left the house with the clothes they were wearing and not much else, he added.

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